Byron Scott appeared on Dan Patrick's show today (Monday, May 2nd) and they discussed the Lakers decision not to extend his contract, Kobe Bryant's 60-point game, and potential future coaching jobs that he might be interested in. Here's a transcript with my personal Silver Snark & Roll, and you can watch the video here.
DP = Dan Patrick, BS = Byron Scott
DP: How blindsided did you feel getting fired, or however it played out?
BS: I was a little blindsided by it, you know it was one of those things that were unfortunate, you know, especially for me, you know I thought the situation that we had talked about a few years ago, that they knew the situation was going to take a few years and they had given me the knowledge that, hey, we're with you, behind you, we know it's going to take two, three years to get this turned around. So, I was a little blindsided by it, but you know, I don't have any real ill will or feelings with the organization. I still love the organization and wish them the best.
You know what I found fascinating about this? Despite all the discussion of Jim Buss' deadline and talk about the front office being delusional, they had discussed with Byron the likelihood of 2-3 difficult years ahead. With their excellent drafting and inspired hire of Luke Walton, maybe the front office should be credited with being more realistic about their situation. In retrospect, who else would have taken the job that Byron Scott took?
DP: But you had, you know, these different kind of vantage points of Kobe was going to go out the way he wanted to go out and then you're trying to develop these young kids, it's hard to do both, isn't it Byron?
BS: It's tough, yeah, there's no doubt about it. You know, juggling that all season long, you know having young guys you're trying to develop and get them to understand how to play the right way and then you've got Kobe who's basically on tour, playing his final season, so you know as I said from day one my main objective with KB was to make sure he finished the season as healthy as possible so he can play in that last game to perform at a high level. I didn't think it was going to be 60 point level, but that was kind of my main objective. So yeah, I was juggling that all season long, you know Dan, and but to be honest with you I enjoyed it, I loved the way we ended the season, I loved the way Kobe went out and I'll have fond memories of that.
There is no doubt that juggling both the development of the Lakers young players and the Kobe Farewell Tour was a difficult task for any coach, but where I disagree - both of these weren't as mutually exclusive as Byron Scott (and to be fair, Mitch Kupchak) made it out to be. Next, Byron Scott "loved" the way the season ended? They finished the season 2-15, including two terrible losses to the Suns, a loss to the Pelicans and a general lack of competitiveness down the stretch. By no metric or developmental objective did they finish the season strongly, the only thing that made the end of the season not feel like a complete waste was Kobe's 60 point performance.
DP: How would you sum up the last two years?
BS: Rough. Very rough. But that's what I expected. You know, that's what I expected. When I took the job, when we sat down, Mitch and I, Jim, that was the whole premise of the conversation, these next two, three years were going to be pretty tough and can I handle the situation. I said, "yeah I can handle this" I knew I could handle it and the team came to work every single day, there was a smile on my face, kept it very positive, which is just my nature anyway, keep it positive, and that's what I continued to do.
How little self-awareness does Byron Scott have that he thinks he "keeps it positive"? I mean, who was more curmudgeonly and dismissive of any positive effort from the young players than Byron Scott? Did he ever miss a single opportunity to throw his players under the bus after bad losses? Positive? C'mon.
DP: Can you clear something up, Jeanie Buss said that she didn't know that you were fired, that Jim Buss fired you, is that how it played out?
BS: I have no idea. I read that as well, and a couple of my people came up to me and said the same thing, that Jeanie didn't have any idea about it, so I have no idea to be honest with you. Mitch Kupchak called me into the office and told me that they weren't going to extend my contract, and that's how it played out
By all accounts this is true.
DP: Alright, as the Lakers move forward, now that you're no longer the coach, can D'Angelo Russell be a star at the point guard position?
BS: I think he can. Obviously, they'll be some question marks with that, his work ethic has to get better, his understanding of the game has to get better. But he has some tools, he can flat out score, really sees the floor extremely well, so he has some tools that you can't teach, but the little intricate parts of the game he still needs to learn. I mean, he's 20 years old, he's a young pup he's got a long ways to go, but if he puts in the work, I think the kid can be a great player.
Agreed! So that's settled then. But wait...
DP: Did you have to give him tough love?
BS: Absolutely, every now and then. You know I think when some of these guys come in the league, they think they're entitled and that's how I felt he thought when he first got with us that he almost tried to act like he was a veteran and I tried to make sure he knew he wasn't. You have to earn your stripes, so yeah there were times I was a little tough on him just to bring him down to Earth, let him know that this is not an easy task being in the NBA, that's the easy part - getting there - the hardest part is to stay there and get better and better and better. So, yeah, I had some tough love for the young man, but just like I told him, when I stop talking to you that'll be a problem. I had a lot of love for him, he obviously went through some tough times, but I think he'll be a good player.
So, to Byron Scott, a rookie that is by all accounts a key part of the future of the franchise who is asserting himself beyond his years is a BAD thing. I'm sure D'Angelo Russell had some immature moments and needed to learn how to be a professional, but based on his on-court conduct, demeanor and his interactions with the press, D'Angelo was mature beyond his age and instead of Byron harnessing it, he did whatever he could to thwart it. If he ever wants to look back and figure out what went wrong, this is a good place to start.
DP: If Luke Walton asked for advice, what would you tell him?
BS: That would be between Luke and I, I would be as honest with him as possible, and if he asked me about each and every player, I would tell him, I'd give my honest opinion about them, for the most part to be honest with you, the first thing I would tell him is that you've got a bunch of good guys, and you've got a bunch of guys that wanna do the right thing, they just don't know how. You've just got to teach them. But I would be very positive and honest about the situation.
STAY AWAY LUKE
DP: You've been around the game a long time, you've seen a lot of things. Where do you put Kobe's scoring 60 in his final game.
BS: You know Dan, I think it'll go down as one of the best finishing acts to a career in the history of basketball. We may never see that in our lifetime, you know a player who's 37 years old playing 20 seasons in the NBA, in his last game scores 60 points and retires. I don't think if you wrote a book about Kobe's 20 years in the NBA and you had that last finish in the last chapter I don't think people would believe it. It was a dream to sit there and watch it, we had some conversations during that game that I'll never forget. To go out that way, I think it's a dream come true. You know he laid it out on the floor every night, that's one thing you gotta say about Kobe Bryant, in 20 years, he never left anything to chance, he went out there and put his heart out every single night, and that's special right there.
I want to cry...
DP: Can you share any of the conversations you had during the 60 point performance?
BS: It's the 9:30 mark, we're down single digits and we called timeout and I drew up a play and he was just sitting there and you could just see him, breathing pretty heavy and I put my hand on his knees and said "Do you have 9 minutes and 30 seconds in that body of yours?" and he looked at me and said "Absolutely". At the 7 minute mark, I looked over at my coaches and said "He is as tired as can be". The next timeout was at the 5 minute mark and I asked him the same question, "Do you have 5 minutes in that body of yours?" He looked at me dead in the face and he said "...yeah" so it wasn't the absolute feeling he had 4 minutes ago and it just kind of cracked me up and I was wondering at the time, how was he going to make it through those next 5 minutes of the game, but his sheer will was amazing and he was able to do it.
I still want to cry...miss you Mam-boo
DP: Have you interviewed for coaching vacancies, certainly in Sacramento? Is there a possibility you'll get a chance there, maybe Houston?
BS: You know what, I have not, I told my agent last week when this news came, I told him just relax, I wanted to take a weekend and chill out and relax and spend some time with my family, and my daughters and my son and my grandkids and just relax. So, those are 2 interesting jobs, the advantages to both - you look at Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins is a star, a super star, probably the best center in our league with Marc Gasol, that would be a great opportunity, I would love to interview with them. And the same for Houston, I mean you look at James Harden and Dwight Howard, so, two very interesting organizations going in the right direction, so it would be a pleasure to interview with them and see where they go.
I love that Byron Scott views the Rockets and Kings, the two biggest trainwrecks in the NBA at this moment, as "going in the right direction." Could you imagine what a Daryl Morey-Byron Scott interview would look like? How fast would Daryl Morey make up some story about his kid getting sick at school just to stop himself from either getting angry or just laughing?
Next, the Vlade Divac, Byron Scott, Vivek Ranadive partnership in managing DeMarcus Cousins would quite frankly be the greatest thing of all time. How would Byron react to DeMarcus pulling up for a 3 with 20 seconds left on the shot clock? I would pay to see such a thing.
Overall, I get it, I'm being a little mean - I'm essentially stomping on the grave of Byron Scott's coaching career. But part of what led to his dismissal was a lack of self-awareness and the ability to change his demeanor to adapt to his personnel. At no point did he show either the people skills or the basketball skills to deserve to keep his job. Managing people and personalities are getting to be a larger part of coaching in the NBA, in addition to needing to rapidly iterate on and embrace the modern NBA offensive and defensive schemes, none of which Scott was able to excel at either of the last two seasons.
Byron Scott may felt blindsided by his firing, but anyone following the league was not, that's for sure.
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